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Play fields delayed at Stallings school

New athletic fields at Stallings Elementary have been postponed a year.

The Porter Ridge Athletic Association asked the town of Stallings for a $250,000 loan in June to build the fields, with hopes of having them ready for play in August. However, finalizing the loan has taken more time than expected, and Porter Ridge Athletic Association president Alan Farris said they've missed the growing season for Bermuda grass.

“It doesn't make sense to try and grow grass in December,” Farris said.

The athletic association plans to use the money to develop a baseball field, multipurpose field and track in an area behind the school. The association asked Stallings for a low-interest loan in June, even though the group has no assets that could serve as collateral.

The Stallings Town Council has moved ahead with the loan and most recently discussed it earlier this month, when council members asked town employees to renegotiate the terms to make sure the town will not lose money.

The town has considered providing the loan at a 2 percent interest rate.

The town council will discuss the loan again at an upcoming meeting, and council members have said the town is waiting for site plans for the fields.

The Porter Ridge Athletic Association and Stallings Elementary students will use the fields when they are built, which Farris hopes will be by August 2009.

Farris said the athletic association has turned away about 60 children from fall sports because of lack of space. He said he got calls through the summer from people who recently moved to the area and wanted to enroll their children in school sports.

Bill Breckenridge, Stallings Elementary principal, said the school's physical education teacher frequently teaches outdoors, and teachers could use the fields for recess. Now, the teacher and students are using the gym much of the time, and students are playing on the school's two pieces of playground equipment and in the bus parking lot during recess.

“Having the fields is going to add to the amount of space that we'll be able to offer for activities for students,” Breckenridge said.

The Porter Ridge Athletic Association will pay back the loan with money from membership fees, which it receives twice yearly. Farris said membership has risen from 500 to 1,700 families in the past five years, and he sees no problems with repaying the money.

“We haven't yet seen a decrease in our membership,” Farris said.